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Commentary By Jason L. Riley

‘An Officer and a Gentleman’—and a Pioneering Actor

Louis Gossett Jr. inspired me as a middle-schooler with his portrayal of a no-nonsense drill sergeant.

Adolescent boys coming of age in the mid-1980s saw “Top Gun” and left the theater with dreams of joining the military. For me, another film, released earlier that decade, beat Tom Cruise’s to the punch. “An Officer and a Gentleman” came out in 1982, when my parents considered me too young to view R-rated fare with salty language and raunchy sex scenes. Luckily, I had friends with HBO.

The drama stars Richard Gere as Zack Mayo, a self-centered loner who graduates from college and joins the Navy to fly jets. Zack wants to prove to himself that he’s a better man than his petty-officer father, a woman-chasing drunk who raised him on a naval base in the Philippines after Zack’s mother committed suicide. The movie chronicles the efforts of Zack and his fellow recruits to survive, both physically and psychologically, the demanding 13-week Officer Candidate School.

Continue reading the entire piece here at The Wall Street Journal (paywall)


Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator. Follow him on Twitter here.

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